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Can You Do Exercise for Headache Relief?

    Chronic headache and migraine sufferers dread the onset of pain. It disrupts their lives and stresses them out almost as much as the pain itself because oftentimes, the headache or migraine strikes without warning. If you’re one such person, have you ever thought of doing exercise for headache relief?

    The Evidence is In

    As someone who suffers chronic headaches or migraines, you’re probably desperate to find something that lessens the frequency and intensity of your pain. Like most people, you might have run out of options as far as medications that work for you. You’re probably tired of lying in a darkened room waiting for the pain to lift.

    Studies have shown that exercise can play a positive role in managing migraines.  Cardiovascular exercise can activate various physical mechanisms that modulate pain, and there is evidence that exercise can prevent a migraine attack from coming on.

    Exercising for as little as two minutes a day with resistance bands to relieve tension in your neck and shoulders can have a beneficial effect. Most programs recommend at least 20-minute sessions for whole-body exercises or activities. How often you do these exercises each week is up to you, but starting with three times a week is our suggestion.

    What Does Exercise for Headache Relief Do?

    When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Exercise reduces stress and can help you to sleep better at night. Two well-known migraine triggers are stress and insufficient sleep.

    Some of you will say that you get headaches or migraines when you exercise. Your blood pressure increases when you exercise, so if you get a headache after exercising, your blood pressure might be too high to start off with. But that is not a reason to avoid exercise.

    Bear in mind that your general health can improve with exercise too, as a spin-off of the benefits of reduced frequency and intensity of headache.

    Your exercise program should include activities designed to improve your cardio-respiratory endurance (aerobics, brisk walks, jogging, cycling), muscular strength and stamina (lifting weights, swimming, resistance exercises, calisthenics), and flexibility (yoga, pilates).

    How Intense Does My Exercise Progam Have to Be?

    The rule of thumb is that if you can still talk normally when doing the exercise, it is moderate. Vigorous activity is when you have to stop and catch your breath after saying a few words.  

    Exercise does not mean hard slog, leaving you feeling exhausted.  Relaxation is part of exercise too, and that why many migraine sufferers opt for yoga.  Especially important for migraine suffers is to relieve the tension that builds up in their neck and shoulders.  

    You should discuss your exercise regime with your neurologist or the pain center where you receive migraine treatment. The healthcare professionals there will be able to recommend exercises that are appropriate for your age and degree of current physical fitness.  This is particularly important if you do not already exercise regularly.

    Schedule Time and Make Goals

    We all have busy lives, so it makes sense to schedule your exercises too.  If they are one way to help you conquer those horrible migraines and headaches, then make them a priority.

    Whatever your current level of fitness, the most important thing is to make sure your warm-up is gradual. Exercising too intensely too quickly could trigger another headache or make your current one worse.

    Drink plenty of water, relieve your stress, clear your mind and focus on your health. Exercise for headache relief and work towards achieving a pain-free life – or at least one with less pain than you already have. You’ll be so glad that you did!